IP Oddments


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Intellectual Property Oddments

Images of Lady Justice

As the Yale Law School professors Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis show in an unusual new book just out, “Representing Justice” — an academic treatise on threats to the modern judiciary that doubles as an obsessive’s tour of Western art through the lens of the law — Lady Justice’s familiar blindfold did not become an accessory until well into the 17th century. And even then it was uncommon because of the profoundly negative connotations blindfolds carried for medieval and Renaissance audiences, who viewed them as emblems not of impartiality but of deception (hence the early use of the word hoodwink as a noun, meaning a blindfold or hood) . . . [NY Times, 16Dec2010]

Resnik & Curtis, Representing Justice.

H Edward Roberts (1941-2010), Altair (1975) Personal Computer

H Edward Roberts, designed MITS Altair in 1975, Albuquerque NM, the first commercially successful, inexpensive general purpose microcomputer, considered by some as the first personal computer. Altair had an Intel 8080 microprocessor and was sold by mail order through ads in Popular Electronics and the like.

Roberts also gave Bill Gates and Paul Allen their first computer employment. Afterwards corporate business embraced the 1981 IBM PC; Apple's Macintosh computer in 1984 introduced "the rest of us" to the graphic user interface. 

After selling MITS in 1977 he studied medicine and in 1986 became a general practitioner in Cochran GA. Roberts was intrigued by electronics working with doctors for experimental heart surgery, leading him into computer work, postponing his interest in medicine for electrical engineering. Working on a room-sized IBM computer, he wondered "What if you gave everyone a computer?"

“Ed was willing to take a chance on us —two young guys interested in computers long before they were commonplace— and we have always been grateful to him,” said Gates and Allen, after Roberts' 1 April 2010 death (born 13 Sept 1941).



Memorial—Leonard Stern, Roger Price—Mad Libs, Droodles

Mad Libsphrasal template word game where one player prompts another for a list of words to substitute for blanks in a story, usually with funny results. The game is especially popular with American children and is frequently played as a party game or as a pastime. Mad Libs was invented in 1953 by Leonard Stern (23 Dec 1923- 7 Jun 2011)  and Roger Price (6 Mar 1918- 31 Oct 1990), who published the first Mad Libs book themselves in 1958.
In 1953, Price invented Droodles, a syndicated feature which he described as "a borkley-looking sort of drawing that doesn't make any sense until you know the correct title." When Simon & Schuster published Price's Droodles in 1953, the book launched a Droodle craze. In 1954, Price hosted a Droodles television game show. Over the years, many of the drawings (minus the author's droll commentary) have been reprinted in collections. One of Price's original Droodles serves as the cover art for Frank Zappa's 1982 album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. Price's other captions for that drawing include "Mother pyramid feeding her baby.

Memorial—Walter Fredrick Morrison (January 23, 1920 - February 9, 2010)

Frisbee (Pluto Platter) Inventer. In 1937 Morrison was throwing a popcorn can lid, it became dented, and flew better. Morrison then discovered that cake pans flew even better, and he started selling “flyin’ Cake Pans’ on Santa Monica CA beaches. He learned some aeronautics in World War II, flying a P-47 Thunderbolt in Italy. In 1946 he sketched the design for the “Whirlo-Way,” the first flying disc. The next version was named Flyin-Saucer. In 1955 Morrison and his wife Lu, and former popcorn can catchmate, designed the “Pluto Platter,” the archetype for modern flying discs (see photo, 1950s). The name was changed to “Frisbee” in 1958, after the Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport CT.
Frisbie pies, with their pie tins, were delivered to Yale University. Yale students discovered inverted Frisbie pie tines, with an airfoil shape, could be skillfully thrown.

Historical Notes—Chicago—Pinball Capital

Invention Motivation--Steve Kordek ducked into Genco’s offices on North Ashland Avenue, Chicago, in 1937 to escape the rain, saw his first pinball machine, and accepted a job on the production line, after having left his work for the Civilian Conservation Corps in Idaho. Genco’s head designer became ill just before the annual pinball trade show in 1948, and Kordek took over, creating what became the pinball standard, Triple Action.

A competing machine had six flippers, at the top of the playing field. To reduce costs, Kordek used just two flippers, moved them to the bottom, and increased their power, to flip the ball back to the top. He is also credited with creating the “drop target” in Vagabond, 1962, and “multiball” in 1963 Beat the Clock.

Derived from the French bagatelle game, modern pinball machines began in Chicago in 1931 when David Gottlieb designed a tabletop mechanical game with a coin slot. After a demonstration game before the New York City Council, New York and then Chicago legalized pinball. Now Stern Pinball Inc, Melrose Park IL, is the only company making pinball machines, <www.sternpinball.com>. For the history of pinball, visit Wikipedia, <Pinball-Wikipedia>. [Chicago Tribune, 8July09].

Historical Notes—Tensor Light

Invention Motivation--Tensor Light
Jay Monroe’s first wife Barbara was bothered by the light from Jay’s nocturnal reading in bed. Jay invented the Tensor high-intensity, low-voltage mini-lamp—combining a 12-volt automobile parking light bulb, a kitchen measuring cup for reflector, a supporting tube, and a 115-12 volt transformer. Monroe also invented an early telephone answering machine, metal tennis racket, disposable flashlight, anti-pollution machine, and an electric pencil sharpener. [Obituary Chicago Tribune, 4July07].

Memorial—Wham-O Founders

Richard Knerr, co-founder with childhood friend Arthur “Spud” Melin of Whamo-O, died 17Jan08 at 82. Knerr and Melin started selling slingshots, and named their company Wham-O after the sound of a target being hit.
In 1958 they launched the Hula Hoop, modified from an Australian exercise ring. They bought rights to a plastic flying disc invented by Walter “Fred” Morrison and named by him the Pluto Platter, after the distant planet, renaming it Frisbee in 1959. Melin died at age 77 in 2002. Wham-O also marketed the SuperBall, made of polybutadiene,  Silly String, and other toys.  Wham-O, Inc history.

Resolving Discovery Disputes

Invention Motivation--Tensor Light
Waggonner v Wal-Mart (A-07-CA-703-JRN, WD TX, 3Jun08, J. James Nowlin). The parties are unable to agree if the deposition of Wal-Mart’s corporate representative should occur in San Antonio, Texas or in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The Court is sympathetic with Defendant’s argument. Surely Defendant’s corporate representative, a resident of Arkansas, would feel great humiliation by being forced to enter the home state of the University of Texas, where the legendary Texas Longhorns have wrought havoc on the Arkansas Razorbacks with an impressive 55-21 all-time series record.

On the other hand, the Court is sympathetic with Plaintiff’s position. Plaintiffs might enter Arkansas with a bit of trepidation as many residents of Arkansas are still seeking retribution for the ‘Game of the Century’ in which James Street and Darrell Royal stunned the Rzorbacks by winning the 1969 National Championship.

Accordingly, it is ordered that unless the parties agree otherwise, the deposition of Defendant’s corporate representative shall occur at 9 AM on June 11, 2008 on the steps of the Texarkana Federal Building, 500 State Line Avenue, TX/AR 71854. It is Further Ordered That each party is to remain on his or her respective side of the state line.

Memorial—Slinky Namer Betty James

Slinky Invention and Name.
In 1943 Mr. James was an engineer at a Philadelphia shipbuilding company, when a torsion spring fell and flipped end over end. He realized he could make a toy, and for Christmas 1945 had Gimbols sell out of the first batch of 400, at one dollar each. More than 300 million slinkys have since been sold.

His wife, betty James, picked the name SLINKY, for describing the graceful movement and soft sound of the toy. She died November 2009, after succeeding to run the company, James Industries, since 1960.

Monty Python— The Galaxy Song

Just to put things in perspective,


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